The mayor of Middlesex is challenging a longtime member of the Nash County Board of Commissioners for the District 3 seat in the November general election.
Luther “Lu Harvey” Lewis Jr., a Republican, is challenging Democrat Billy Morgan, the board chairman.
Morgan, who has served for 26 years on the board, said he plans to continue representing the will of his constituents if re-elected.
“I’ve lived here all my life. I know the people and their needs,” Morgan said.
He said Nash County belongs to the people, not the seven elected county commissioners.
Morgan said a good example of his philosophy can be found in his strong opposition to the board’s decision to approve of a Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant at the intersection of Interstate 95 and N.C. 97.
He said the plant has the potential to lower property values and pollute the Neuse River basin. Morgan said he also does not believe that local people will be employed at the plant.
“Actually, Sanderson Farms is the worst thing that could come to this county right now,” he said.
Lewis, who is a lifelong Middlesex resident and mayor of the town since 2005, said he has “very mixed emotions” about the Sanderson Farms plant proposal.
“I can’t say I’m 100 percent for it or against it,” he said.
He said he is sure that Nash County could have been more transparent during the approval processing for the plant.
“I think a lot of things could have been done differently,” Lewis said. “It all should have been done upfront. I think jobs and investment are something the county needs, but at the same time, we don’t need to lay down every time a big industry comes along.”
Lewis serves as the administrator and economic development coordinator for the town of Middlesex. In that role, he promotes the town to companies.
Earlier this year, Pencco Inc. announced that it has chosen Middlesex as the location of its newest facility to manufacture liquid ferric sulfate, a nonhazardous product used in public wastewater treatment systems. The company is investing $1.5 million in its new facility and creating between seven and 10 jobs over the next year.
Also, East Coast Packaging announced in September that it was bringing 29 jobs to Middlesex in the move of its business from Youngsville to a site that was formerly Fawn Plastics.
“I’ve worked with USDA and the (N.C.) Rural Center on a couple of projects here,” Lewis said. “I kind of know how that works.”
Lewis said it is a challenge luring industry to a small town like Middlesex, even though it has a lot to offer companies.
“For these small towns, you’ve got to find people and bring them back and show them what you have,” he said. “You can’t sit around and wait and let people find you. People in Raleigh don’t hardly know where Middlesex is half the time.”
Lewis said the primary reason he is running is to continue helping Southern Nash County.
“I feel the southern end of the county is where the growth is going to come,” he said.
Lewis, 54, said it might be beneficial to have a younger person as the Southern Nash County representative on the commission. Morgan is 80.
“I think Mr. Billy has done a good job,” Lewis said. “I just think our commission board in general is getting up a little in age.”
As county commissioner, he said, he would support small businesses.
“I’d like to continue building the southern end of Nash County with residential (growth) and businesses,” he said. “Small businesses are the backbone of the community.”
Lewis said the county partner in a revolving loan pool to help new businesses get started or existing ones expand.
“I’d love to see some kind of small business loan program possibly (administered) through county and the Golden Leaf Foundation,” he said. “I know it would take getting banks involved.”
Morgan, a lifelong Nash County resident, has been on the commission for 26 years.
“I think I know more about this county than most anyone in it,” he said. “I try and be fair for the people I represent in every situation.”
Morgan said the commission has done a lot to help Southern Nash County under his tenure.
“We have a new school in Middlesex,” he said. “We have an industrial park in Middlesex.”
Morgan said he will continue to oppose excessive county incentives to lure in new industries, such as those that have been offered to Sanderson Farms.
“We’re a good county,” he said. “We don’t need give away all these incentives for people to come to this county as diversified and as dependable as this county is.”
In the District 1 commission race, incumbent Lou Richardson is unopposed.